The article we translated today is actually a couple days old, and the talk show upon which it is based is even older. Nonetheless, we thought it was interesting and important enough to deserve our attention. The article deals with an interview given by Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mufid Shehab on one of the many talk shows to grace the Ramadan airwaves, along with the Muslim Brotherhood’s reaction to Shehab’s comments. Unfortunately, the television at TBE HQ is currently on the fritz, so we have been unable to partake in the bountiful harvest of television programming that Ramadan traditionally offers. After the translation itself, we provide a small helping of conspiratorially-minded analysis, along with some links.
From page 1 of al-Shorouk’s Thursday, September 17th edition:
Brotherhood Responds: Canceling Judicial Supervision a Sure Sign of Rigging
Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mufid Shehab described rumors of a deal between the Muslim Brotherhood and the government or the NDP about inheritance of power as “empty talk,” adding that not everything one hears is true or even worthy of discussion.
Shehab said that any dialogue must be between equals and mutually recognized parties, and the Brotherhood is neither recognized nor equal in any way. He added that they are an organization that is against the rule of law and the constitution, and are not an institutionalized organization. Furthermore, the majority party [the NDP] or the government cannot hold talks with an entity that lacks legitimacy. Therefore, dialogue is not only untrue but nonexistent. That said, the NDP does deal with individuals or independent members of parliament as long as they do not belong to parties or groups that are banned or unlawfully operating.
About his expectations for the Brotherhood’s situation in the next parliamentary elections [currently scheduled for 2010], Shehab said, during an interview with host Gabr al-Qarmouti on satellite station ON TV’s program “Headlines” on Tuesday evening, “I don’t expect them to win 88 seats, the number they hold in the current session. Their victories in the coming elections will be much smaller, because the citizenry is more conscious of its interests and the former dysfunction in the majority party has been addressed.
He attributed the Brotherhood’s winning 88 seats to three causes: First, shortcomings in the ranks of the NDP and the candidates they chose to run; second, a feeling amongst citizens that the government might be the cause of their problems, and a subsequent withdrawal of support for the ruling party; and, third, the general weakness that afflicts the other parties. There are 24 parties without even a modicum of influence [on the electorate.] That means that what happened was not due to the strength of the Brotherhood or belief in their ideas, but rather it can be attributed to other reasons.
[At this point the online version of the article diverges from the print version. We’ve decided to translate the print version, because the content is more interesting.]
In Shehab’s opinion, no new amendments to the constitution will be forthcoming, with the consideration that constitutions must enjoy a high degree of stability. Representative Hussein Ibrahim, deputy head of the Muslim Brotherhood’s parliamentary bloc, said that the dysfunction the NDP has addressed, referring to Shehab’s remarks, was the constitutional amendment that cancelled judicial supervision of elections, which will permit the falsification of the will and the votes of the people. He emphasized that the Brotherhood is prepared to win a majority in the event of clean elections.
Ibrahim warned against repeating the “widespread” (“فجاجة” We’re not sure what that means.) irregularities that occurred during local elections and Shura Council elections, and disallowing people from entering voting facilities. He said, “Repeating what happened in local and Shura Council elections is playing with fire,” adding, “The Egyptian people give legitimacy to the Brotherhood.” He also confirmed the absence of any deals between the Brotherhood and the government but pointed out that the Brotherhood was open to anything.
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The only thing that jumped out at us, other than the fact that al-Shorouk often fails to close quotation marks, making it difficult to determine whether some lines are quotes or not, was the last line of the second paragraph, in which Shehab says that the NDP, while not willing to negotiate with the Brotherhood, is willing to talk to members of other, non-outlawed individuals. Longtime readers will remember that in the original story about a supposed deal between the government and the Brotherhood, there were no direct talks. Instead, the two sides were using another opposition politician as an intermediary. Thus Shehab’s denial could in fact be a non-denial denial, or it could be that the original al-Shorouk story was either wrong about a deal being in the works, or one or neither party to the supposed deal is eager to publicize its existence. The same person, Muhammad Saad Abd al-Hafez, authored both articles. If anyone has his contact details, we’d like to be in touch.
MB Supreme Guide Mehdi Akef delivered a tough, red-meat-for-the-base message in advance of Eid, in which he discusses the jailed MB members, Palestine and other topics. Al-Quds al-Arabi has the details.
This is an old article by Khalil El-Anani, who in our estimation is the best analyst of the Brotherhood (and Brotherhood-government relations) currently writing on a regular basis. In it he discusses the “zero sum game” being played by the two most potent political forces in Egypt.
Also see Joshua Stacher’s comprehensive overview of the Brotherhood’s recent fortunes, from the Spring 2009 issue of the Middle East Report.
All this talk of prisoners and zero sum games got us thinking, is the constant conflict between the regime and the Brotherhood simply an iterated game of prisoners’ dilemma? What, if anything, can game theory teach us about Egyptian politics?
Finally, Gabriel García Márquez’ Chronicle of a Death Foretold, upon the title of which the title of this post is based, is awesome, and all readers are urged to read it. It is available online here.